Wildflower country
Colour along Wilcocks Road. Picture: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian

There are small sprays of wildflowers still colouring-up Coalseam Conservation Park, though as I head back south from the Mid West towards Perth, the floral season shows more of its colours and textures.

More 2012 Wildflower Season:
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FESTIVAL IN FULL BLOOM
CALL OF THE WILDFLOWERS
FEAST OF COLOUR
WILDFLOWERS SPRING UP
ARALUEN
WILDFLOWER PHOTO CONTEST

But I've jumped the gun.

First I must tell you that I have driven north from Perth to Geraldton through Lancelin and up the Indian Ocean Drive, with the country in bloom. A good glimpse of Wedge Island, the dunes near Cervantes, waxes and wattles in full swing.

At Geraldton, the splendid foreshore project has given the town more than a facelift - it seems to have given it heart. I encounter a warm, spontaneous and thoughtful welcome around town for us as tourists.

From there, I head back 20km south to a splendid lunch at Bentwood Olive Grove at Greenough Flats, with its Mediterranean-style building and gardens.

And then inland, through Walkaway to stay at Mingenew Commercial Hotel ($98 for a good motel room and the best sleep I've had in months; $13.50 for the epic Sunday roast).

I like Mingenew - its grain facility is the biggest inland grower-fed receival facility in Australia and there is a real sense of community. The good pub, a good store, Boyland's Bakery with a lady behind the counter breaking dough by hand and the first batch of homemade pies just out. And, in one corner, an interestingly incongruous collection of natural chrysanthemum stone from the Three Gorges area in China, complete with three red Chinese lanterns.

Boyland's Bakery and Mingenew Commercial Hotel, further down the street, in Mingenew. Picture: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian
Mingenew's Cecil Newton Park features a boulder dropped around here in the Permian ice age 280 million years ago and a giant wheat sculpture by Robert Hitchcock that locals have nicknamed "big ears".

In 1850, explorer Augustus Gregory camped at Mingenew Springs; by 1900 there were three blacksmiths and wheelwrights, and the great drovers and stockmen of the 1850s to 1950s are honoured by the interesting display at the bottom of Mingenew Hill.

Yes, Mingenew is a good country town and there's a real sense that visitors are welcome here, too.

Wildflowers in Coalseam Conservation Park. Picture: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian
Coalseam Conservation Park is 34km north, with the Irwin River valley running through it and views from the high lookouts across the country to flat-top hills.

Coming back down Coalseam Road, things take their turn towards wandering and I turn off east on to Narandagy Road and then south on Yandanooka Melara Road to avoid going back in to town. They are unsealed but good and I bowl along through the country and the sunny morning, and stop to buy organic eggs for $5 a dozen from Holmwood, an important farm reflecting the name of the Holmwood Shale that runs through Coalseam Conservation Park.

Holmwood's sign, welded from horse shoes. Picture: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian
The "EGGS" sign is welded from horseshoes. The delights of country art.

Down at Three Springs, the wandering turns serious, as I skirt along the west of spectacular Yarra Yarra salt lakes on West Yarra Road, which turns from a good track to a two-wheel track and then gets a bit sticky (I needed to use four-wheel drive). The esky's spoils are spilt over a rug in the shade, next to this crystalline white "ocean".

The track along Yarra Yarra Lakes. Picture: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian
From there, ignoring the obvious option of getting back on the bitumen, Winchester South Road heads directly towards Perth on wide gravel, then Brand Mudgee Road and Wilcocks Road, along the western edge of Watheroo National Park, coloured by wildflowers.

At North West Road, I turn east towards Moora and join the Bindoon Moora Road for a lovely afternoon drive through Mogumber to Bindoon. I've always liked this "backroad" and in the green flush and late light, it is prettier than ever.

From there, it's bitumen all the way home down Great Northern Highway, of course.

There has been the wonder of the wildflowers, of course, but the wonder of wandering, too.

Of just being out, exploring WA. Of something much more than just a day's drive.

The West Australian

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